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Harsher action against cellphone drivers

Industry news
Durban – The KwaZulu-Natal department of transport and eThekwini municipality are in support of a call by the Road Traffic Management Corporation for harsher action to be taken against motorists who use their cellphones while driving.

The corporation said on Tuesday it would welcome initiatives taken by metros to “improve compliance with the rules of the road by confiscating cellular phones” and fine offenders R2000 to get them back.

It also supported a R1000 fine for motorists caught without a driving licence.

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'Using a cellphone while driving has been identified as a major cause for road crashes and fatalities.'

The penalty for driving while talking on a cellphone is a R500 fine. The corporation’s comments come after rumours had been circulated on social media that metro police in Johannesburg and Nelson Mandela Bay would confiscate cellphones if motorists where caught using them while driving and drivers would be arrested if caught without a licence.

Both metros this week denied such action was being contemplated. But KwaZulu-Natal Transport Department spokesman Kwanele Ncalane siad on Tuesday it would welcome “more aggressive action” against offenders.

“Our view is that R2000 is too lenient for such a serious transgression. Using a cellphone while driving has been identified as a major cause for road crashes and fatalities.”

However, eThekwini municipality acting head of communications Mandla Nsele said it would only be possible for Durban metro police to confiscate phones if there was a change in national legislation.

Safety

“The intention of any traffic-related law is to keep drivers and pedestrians safe, thus if implemented correctly, it would improve the situation where road carnage prevails.”

Law enforcement watchdog Justice Project SA’s Howard Dembovsky agreed that confiscating phones from motorists was “not catered for in the National Road Traffic Act".

He said provinces could take a decision to introduce it in a by-law, but only the Western Cape had such a by-law.

Dembovsky also criticised the call to fine motorists without licences.

“In this day and age they should be able to tell whether you have a licence via an electronic database," he said. “If the Department of Transport threatens arrests and fines for every little thing, there will be many counter civil suits against them.”

KwaZulu-Natal Community Safety has deployed more than 24 000 personnel for the season, including 1694 Metro and 763 Road Traffic Inspectorate officers.

The Mercury

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